Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller's classic about the burden and tragedy of the American Dream, comes back periodically to haunt audiences in this country.
Earlier this month we followed a production in Vermont that played to packed houses. It is the obvious play for a time of recession.
Death of a Salesman was written in 1948, when America was mired in a recession it feared would degenerate into a full-blown depression. Memories of the 1930s were still raw. Arthur Miller's own father lost his business after the crash and the playwright was intent on showing up the American Dream as a kind of trance that placed a crushing burden on the dreamer.
The families we interviewed in Vermont were never close to the kind of despair that drove Willy Loman to kill himself. But they were teetering between resignation and pride.
For the first time since the Great Depression, Americans believe the next generation will be worse off, and the next generation does little if anything to dispel these fears. (Watch our film on BBC World News America tonight at 1900 Eastern time).
Jim and Beau Diehl, a father-and-son duo of carpenters, clearly had to downsize their benchmarks of success. Their small business was being starved of credit by the banks. Jim Diehl still believed in the American Dream. His son essentially thought it was a sham.
The Juergen family were three generations sitting around a kitchen island. Good company lubricated by red wine. And yet Chelsea had to leave her expensive private college because they could no longer pay the bills and couldn't imagine paying back the exorbitant loans.
Her mother Kristin, a manager in the health industry, was working harder than ever for less money than ever. She seemed utterly exhausted. The recession is forcing her to run another lap when all she really wants to do is put her feet up.
Kristin's father, George, 78, was the most relaxed. With a chiselled chin and a striking resemblance to General Patton, he had a wicked sense of humour, a benign relief that he had experienced the best post war years and a great story from his past.
I asked if he had fought in the War.
"Yes," he said. "I was in the battle of Las Vegas."
I told him I hadn't heard of it.
"You wouldn't," he replied. "It's what we called our weekly outings to Sin City."
George Juergen was based in the Nevada desert in the early 1950s, when America was busy enhancing its nuclear capability. His job was to herd 10,000 pigs to the test sites, place them in various strategic locations and then watch what happened to them during and after the blast.
It was the biggest barbeque on the planet.
Several of his colleagues developed cancer. Mr Juergen survived with his body intact and his sense of humour enhanced. And at his ripe old age, he had no intention of bowing to despair.
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